32 Terribly Good Oxymoron Examples

31 July 2023
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Japanese House
Unsplash: Vince Fleming

The minute you hear the phrase “pretty ugly” you immediately know that whatever this statement is describing is pretty ugly or very, very ugly. The contradicting phrase “pretty ugly” is known as an oxymoron – a figure of speech that pairs words that contradict each other. Even the term oxymoron is an oxymoron itself because the word is a combination of two Greek words: “oxys” which means sharp and “moros” which means stupid.

An oxymoron is a popular literary device used in various works of literature. The great Shakespeare is known for using oxymorons occasionally in his writings, especially in Romeo and Juliet. In fact, Romeo belts out lines and lines of oxymorons just in Act 1 Scene 1. Here’s a bit from the play. How many oxymorons can you spot?

O brawling love! O loving hate!
O anything of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity!
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.

However, Shakespeare isn’t the only wordsmith known to use oxymorons in English literature. Because other writers and storytellers like Lord Byron, John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, and J.D. Salinger have also included them in their works. Let’s not forget that pop culture’s also peppered with oxymorons from movie titles, and song lyrics, to anything you can think of. Curious to know what other oxymorons are out there? Read on!

  1. Alone together
  2. Icy hot
  3. Living dead
  4. Old news
  5. Only choice
  6. Working vacation
  7. Student teacher
  8. Cruel kindness
  9. Terribly good
  10. Minor crisis
  11. Stupidly brilliant
  12. Good grief
  13. True fiction
  14. Wise fool
  15. Open secret
  16. Deafening silence
  17. Bittersweet
  18. Awfully good
  19. Clearly misunderstood
  20. Pretty ugly
  21. Small crowd
  22. Dark light
  23. Final draft
  24. Joyful noise
  25. Original copy
  26. Seriously funny
  27. Accidentally on purpose
  28. Half full
  29. Sound of silence
  30. Perfectly imperfect
  31. Sweet sorrow
  32. Going nowhere